Welcome back everybody and thanks for making us part of your Clemson football experience. The long wait is over and now the Tigers are back on the field as the defending national champions. The off-season saw lots of discussion about Clemson’s dismantling of the Alabama Crimson Tide, some good, some silly, but all of that is now behind us and the talking will be done on the field. The Tigers’ season starts in Death Valley against the new-look Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who are (supposedly) moving on from the triple option offense. Such changes don’t happen overnight, so no one knew quite what to expect going into the game. There was little doubt, however, that the Tigers would have much trouble dispatching the Yellow Jackets.
Tech won the toss and chose to defer. Joseph Ngata took the kickoff at about the 5 yard line and ran it out to the Tiger 35. Travis Etienne took the handoff but the Yellow Jackets pursued well and stopped him for a yard loss. Tee Higgins caught an 8-yard pass on the sideline from Trevor Lawrence to set up 3rd and 3. Lawrence and Higgins couldn’t connect on a slant and the Tigers punted. The Tech returner muffed the punt and Baylon Spector pounced on it at the Tech 16. A first down run by Etienne resulted in a 1-yard loss. On 2nd down, Justyn Ross took a hitch pass for 5 yards. On 3rd down, Higgins got the 1st down on a comeback route. A couple of plays later, Lawrence ran it in from 6 yards out. The Tigers led 7-0.
B.T. Potter almost put the kickoff in Lake Hartwell, so Tech started at the 25. Tech had a nice 3rd down conversion out to the 40. They got another 1st down and then X-Man Xavier Thomas blew up a read option and put the Yellow Jackets back 11 yards. And incompletion on 2nd down set up 3rd and forever, and the Jackets couldn’t convert it. After the fair catch on the punt, Clemson started at their own 15. Etienne to the 1st down handoff for a 6-yard gain. A second dose of Etienne on 2nd down moved the chains out to the 27. Good pressure on Lawrence made him throw it away on 1st down but Etienne broke loose up the middle for 16 yards on 2nd down. The ball came out, but the call on the field was that he was down. Review disagreed and Tech was given the ball at the Tiger 41.
An incomplete pass and short run set up 3rd and 5, but Tech couldn’t hit a pass in the flat and punted. Clemson took over at the 20. Lawrence looked like an old school tailback with a 21-yard run on 1st down but a holding penalty brought it back. Then Etienne took a handoff and raced 90 yards down the left sideline to put the Tigers up 14-0. Watch that one on the highlight videos and note the good blocking, especially by Jackson Carman. Tech took the kickoff out the end zone. A nice run a couple of plays later by the Tech QB took it out near midfield, but they couldn’t keep moving and had to punt it away. The Tigers took over at their 7. A couple of short pass plays got the Tigers to 3rd and 1. Lawrence kept the ball on a read option and nearly got tackled for a loss but he powered his way to the 1st down at the 20. A hold on 1st down pushed the Tigers back but Lyn-J Dixon took a short pass for 23 yards to move the chains. A couple of uneventful plays put the Tigers at 3rd and 10 on their 32. Lawrence then scrambled for 14 yards to keep the drive going. That play ended the 1st quarter.
Diondre Overton got 3 yards on a hitch pass and Lyn-J Dixon got stuffed on 2nd down. Lawrence sailed a pass over Ross on 3rd down and the Tigers had to punt. Will Spiers’ punt rolled down to the 9 yard line. A couple of runs got Tech to 3rd and 1, and then they missed a handoff. Tiger DT Xavier Kelly jumped on it at the Tech 14. Etienne wasted no time, putting it in the end zone on 1st down. Watch the blocking by the Tiger line on that one when you see the highlights. The Tigers had a 21-0 lead. After the kickoff, Tech started at the 25. A couple of good runs on 2nd and 3rd down by Tech QB Tobias Oliver moved it out to the 44. The Yellow Jacket backfield kept breaking tackles and moved into Tiger territory. On 4th and 1 at the Tiger 36, Tech appeared to convert on a QB sneak, but Tech had called a timeout from the sideline before the snap. On the second try, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get the 1st down. Clemson took over on downs.
Etienne got 3 yards on 1st down. Lawrence then made a terrible read on an out route and Tech’s Tre Swilling picked it off. Lawrence hustled over and was able to push him out at the 2 to deny the pick six. Three tries by Tech ended in failure and on 4th down Denzel Johnson picked off a pass to end the threat. The Tigers used Etienne and Dixon to move the ball out near the 40, then Lawrence hit Higgins on his second read and Tee made a beautiful catch (while being interfered with, I might add) and took it in for a 62-yard TD. Tech was on the verge of scoring and just like that, the Tigers were up 28-0.
Tech started at the 25 and had a nice 1st down run for 9 yards as Tiger defenders were not wrapping up on their tackles. K.J. Henry got to Oliver as he tried to roll out and set the Yellow Jackets back 8 yards. Spector got another tackle for loss and Tech had to punt again. The Tigers started at the 20 but a false start pushed the Tigers back 5. Lawrence hit Higgins for 22 yards over the middle. Ross then appeared to have a nice diving sideline catch on a go route, but his knee landed on the line. On 2nd and 10 from the Tiger 37, Etienne took a flare pass out to the 40. On 3rd down, Lawrence couldn’t connect with Overton and Spiers punted it away with a minute left in the half. Tech started at their 25 but couldn’t do anything. Clemson started at their 32 with under a minute left, but they didn’t do much (other than throw another interception) and the half ended.
Tech started at the 25 after the 2nd half kickoff. A sack forced 3rd and 18 and another one made it 4th and 21. Derion Kendrick fielded the punt with a fair catch at the Tiger 40. Etienne rumbled for 12 yards on 1st down. Then he took it the rest of the way for his 3rd touchdown of the night, and at that point he had 205 yards rushing on 12 carries (and that’s how he finished). Again, watch that offensive line. Tech took over at the 25 again. On 1st down the Yellow Jackets got 54 yards on a pass to a running back. A couple of plays later, they were in the end zone on an option play. The score was 35-7.
Ngata returned the kickoff out to the 23. Dixon ran for 17 yards on 1st down. A couple more Dixon runs set up a 3rd down and Lawrence hit TE Jaelyn Lay for the 1st down. Darrien Rencher came in and had a couple of good runs to get another 1st down. Dixon came back in an took it in from 18 yards out. Clemson led 42-7. Tech ran the kickoff out to the 15 and got 7 yards on a QB scramble on 1st down. A couple of runs moved the chains but Tanner Muse got an interception on a tipped pass and returned it to the Tech 21. Rencher moved it down to the 14 with a couple of runs. On 3rd down he got stuffed and the Tigers went for it on 4th down. Chase Brice was in at QB and threw a nice pass in the end zone to Brannon Spector but he couldn’t hang onto it.
Tech took over but couldn’t do much and had to punt. Clemson took over after the punt at their 33 with Chaz Mellusi at running back. He had a couple of good runs and Ngata converted a 3rd down. Another freshman running back, Michel Dukes, also had some good runs on the drive. As the 4th quarter started, freshman WR Frank Ladson Jr. hauled in a beautiful throw from Brice for a 21-yard touchdown. The Tigers held a 49-7 lead. The kickoff pinned Tech deep at their 10. With Clemson playing deep into their reserves, Tech moved the ball deep into Tiger territory and scored on a 28-yard pass to beat Tiger safety K’Von Wallace. The score was 49-14 with about 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
The Tiger drive started with a jet sweep by Will Sweeney that picked up 4 yards. Mellusi picked up 12 yards to get the first down. The Tigers continued moving down the field and on 3rd and 5 from the Tech 34, Brice tried to hit Cornell Powell but the pass was a little long. Potter came in and kicked the 51-yard field goal. Clemson led 52-14. The Yellow Jackets took over with about 6 minutes left but didn’t do much and punted.
Taisun Phommachanh came on at QB for Clemson and had some nice runs as the Tigers moved into Tech territory. They ran out of time before they could add any points though.
I thought the Tigers played pretty well tonight. The starting offensive line had some penalties but overall did a great job. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below. Be sure to check back with us over the next few days for the best in-depth coverage of the game that can be found anywhere. We’ll see you next week as Texas A&M comes to town for what should be a competitive game with Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies.